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The Question

(Submitted February 09, 2002)

Are there any stars larger than our solar system?

The Answer

Thank you for your question. If we consider the size of the solar system as the distance of the Sun to the furthest planet, Pluto, then the solar system is roughly eight thousand times larger than the radius of the Sun. The largest stars we know about are called red supergiant stars (there is a relatively nearby one called Betelgeuse). The largest red supergiant we know of is in the binary system VV Cephei, and is close to four thousand solar radii. This is large enough to encompass the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter; but makes it not quite halfway out to Pluto.

-- Michael Loewenstein and Amy Fredericks for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

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